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Iowa Democrats report on “trade war,” cannabis manufacturing, more

The following is a legislative update from Iowa Democrats:

Trade War Begins; Iowa Products Hit Hard

A trade war between the United States began last week after the Trump administration officially imposed tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese goods. In response, the Chinese government immediately responded, imposing $34 billion in retaliatory tariffs on American goods such as soybeans and pork.

President Trump has previously said that if the Chinese government responded to the tariffs he ordered, he would increase tariffs to $500 billion of goods, the total value of Chinese imports. Such a move would be met with further and more sever tariffs from China.

In addition to China, Trump has also threatened tariffs on the rest of our largest trading partners, Canada, Mexico and the European Union. Like the tariffs on Chinese goods, these moves have led to retaliatory actions.

The tariffs on soybeans and pork will hit Iowa particularly hard. Mexico and China are the two biggest markets for U.S. pork in the world. The United States exports $1.5 billion in pork to Mexico and the Chinese market purchased $1.1 billion in U.S. Pork last year. China accounts for nearly 60 percent of the global soybean trade, and about one of every three rows of U.S. soybean production. It’s been estimated that Iowa farmers stand to lose up to $624 million because of the tariffs on soybeans alone.

Iowa is the number one in pork production, number one in production of ethanol, and number two in soybean production.

During the 2018 legislative session, Iowa Republican lawmakers refused to join others and send a strong bi-partisan message to the Trump Administration about the economic harm that would come to Iowa producers because of tariffs.

Medical Cannabis Manufacturing in Iowa Update

Last week, the Iowa Department of Public Health issued a cannabis manufacturing license to Iowa Relief, a New Jersey-based company, to manufacture medical marijuana within the state. Iowa Relief, which grows, processes or dispenses cannabis in 16 other states, plans on building a new facility in Cedar Rapids and estimates hiring 20 full-time employees to work at the plant. The facility’s product production will include capsules, tinctures, and creams and will be marketed for health-related use. Iowa Relief plans to tentatively begin selling products July 1, 2019.

Currently, Iowa Relief and MedPharm are the only cannibus manufacturers licensed to operate within the state. MedPharm products are scheduled to sell in December at five licensed dispensaries, including Waterloo, Davenport, Council Bluffs, Windsor Heights, and Sioux City.

In 2017, the Iowa Legislature expanded code language to include the following medical conditions for the cannibus program: cancer, multiple sclerosis, seizures; AIDS or HIV, Crohn’s disease; ALS, Parkinson’s disease; and other terminally diseased or untreatable pain. Currently, Iowa’s medical marijuana law is limited to the production of oils, capsules and creams. Any production or sale of smokeable forms of marijuana is prohibited.

Despite Iowa’s restrictive medical cannibus rules, four firms applied last month for a medical marijuana production permit. Based on the increase of manufacturing interest, both MedPharm and Iowa Relief advocate for the state to expand Iowa’s current list of medicinal ailments and raise the 3% THC cap so Iowans may have easier access to a health product.

This session, the House Public Safety Committee passed HF 2432, which streamlined the application process for cannabidoil manufacturers and producers and would have allowed safe and feasible access to Iowa cannibidoil’s market. Additionally, legislators proposed replacing the 3% THC cap with 90 grams over 90 days and changing current code language to include ‘chronic or severe pain’. However, the bill was never brought up for debate by House Republican leaders.

HIV Diagnosis Rate Decreases in Iowa

Recently, the Iowa Department of Public Health’s (IDPH) released their annual HIV Surveillance Report for 2017. The report finds there were 125 new HIV diagnoses last year, a decrease of 11 cases from the 136 cases reported in 2016. This is a total decrease of 9%. However, there was a 24% increase in the number of African-Americans who were diagnosed with HIV compared with 2016.

The HIV Care Continuum Initiative was established nationally in 2013, and focuses on linking newly diagnosed individuals to care, retaining them in care, and increasing the proportion of HIV-diagnosed individuals whose viral load (the amount of virus in their blood) is effectively suppressed. Studies have shown viral suppression improves individual health outcomes and may reduce the likelihood of transmitting HIV by up to 96%. Of the 2,662 diagnosed persons (both in and out of care) in Iowa, 78% were virally suppressed. However, nationally, an estimated 60% of persons diagnosed with HIV (both in and out of care) had attained viral suppression.

To see the State of Iowa Comprehensive HIV Plan for 2017-2021, visit:

Iowa Ranks 5th Nationally in “Child’s Well-Being”

The state of Iowa ranked 5th nationally in the latest Kids Count Report that ranks a child’s well-being. This includes the categories of education, economic well-being, family and community, and health, all of which Iowa scored in the top 10. The report said that this is a reflection of the value the people of Iowa put on providing for children and families.

In education, since Iowa has the best high school graduation rate in the country, it was not a surprise that Iowa was number one in high school students graduating on time. Iowa also scored well by having a low percentage of young children not in school, and improved by 3% respectively compared to last year in both 8th grade math and 4th grade reading scores.

Despite a high percent of kids finishing high school, Iowa still lacks in the amount of people with higher education degrees which hurts our skilled workforce. According to the report, Iowa ranked 46th in the amount of people ages 25 to 34 that have attained a degree beyond high school. Many Iowans are concerned that rising tuition at state universities and community colleges over the last several years is making it more difficult for Iowans to further their education after high school.

Iowa fared well in teen birth rates, dropping from 29 per 1,000 in 2010 to 17 per 1,000 in 2016 (a total decrease of 41%). This reduction could be attributed to an increase in sexual education and access to quality healthcare. However, a few indicators such as single parent families and child poverty have worsened or stagnated the past few years. More than one in seven children in Iowa lives in poverty for a total number of 105,000. According to the report, the number of kids living in poverty could be dramatically reduced by raising the minimum wage to at least $10.00 per hour. Iowa currently has a minimum wage of only $7.25 per hour.

For more information about the Kids Count Report, please visit:

Iowa Teacher Licensure Information New Website

The Iowa Board of Educational Examiners (BOEE) has created a new licensure information document website which will assist educators in understanding Iowa license and authorization types, terms of validity, renewal or extension options, and other important information. For questions, contact Joanne Tubbs at 515-281-3611 or

More Privatized Medicaid Challenges; New Dental Plan Changes

Ever since the Governor unilaterally privatized Medicaid in 2016, the results have been disastrous for the people of Iowa. Iowa’s Medicaid Dental Wellness Plan (DWP) may have dentists across Iowa no longer accepting Medicaid patients because the state shifted management of the dental system to for-profit companies.

Because of these changes, the University of Iowa Dental School announced they will no longer be taking new Medicaid patients.  This new policy is due to the low payments and confusing rules from the Managed Care Organizations (MCOs) that took over Iowa’s Medicaid program.

The University of Iowa has the only dental school in the state, and they often take challenging cases. They currently serve 8,000 adult Medicaid patients, and those patients will still receive services. However, any new Medicaid patients will be turned away.  Patients are already having trouble accessing dental care, and this will add to that problem.

The State of Iowa also announced new changes to DWP plans. Beginning on September 1, 2018, DWP will include an Annual Benefit Maximum (ABM), or an amount that a member cannot exceed during a certain timeframe. The ABM will be $1,000 from September 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019 and applies to Medicaid members age 21 and older. Children are not affected by this change.

However, $1,000 ABM does not apply to the following services:
•    Preventative
•    Diagnostic
•    Emergent
•    Anesthesia in conjunction with oral surgery procedures

The DWP is part of Iowa’s Medicaid program, and helps Iowa’s most vulnerable population with oral hygiene and care.

If you have any questions regarding this change, please contact the Iowa Medicaid Enterprise Provider Services Unit at 1-800-338-7909, or email at

New Budget Year Begins, Questions Remain

Iowa began a new fiscal year on July 1st and while it appears the budget is balanced, some uncertainty remains. Iowans won’t know until the end of September when the books are finally closed for fiscal year 2018, if there will need to be yet another transfer or more borrowing as Republican lawmakers have continued to mismanage the state’s finances.

Even if the budget is indeed balanced when the books are closed, current budget management has led to unsustainable practices. Republican lawmakers have already scooped from multiple funds for the upcoming budget year (FY 2019), including a fund to protect taxpayers and another for the creation of skilled workforce jobs.  This was done in order to balance the budget, all while giving tax cuts to the richest Iowans.

Last year, majority party lawmakers and the Governor were forced to borrow $144 million and make a several budget cuts in the middle of the year because of their fiscal mismanagement.

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